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PYKE: Reporters don't love tragedy

June 19, 2014

Bobbye Pyke

Tragedy makes up a large portion of the news.

The front page of most newspapers is plastered with stories about death, war, destruction and general mayhem.

These stories sell papers. They catch the eye. They draw you in. These stories keep us in business.

In general, these are stories that capture the attention of readers and provide content that interests them.

But these stories are also hard to write.

As a reporter, weeks when a great deal of bad things happen are difficult. We report the news. But at the same time, we are often writing the story of the final chapter of someone's life.

We are often writing about the very worst moment a person will ever experience. We are often writing the most tragic tale a family will ever read. We write about some of the saddest moments.

I know that readers often tire of how sad the news can be. We often hear complaints that the news is too sad, that we focus only on the bad things that are happening, that we intrude into the worst moments in a family's life.

Take my word for it, reporters are tired, too. We are tired of people dying. It is emotionally draining to remain composed and unbiased when your heart is breaking for family members who have lost loved ones. Every reporter I know jumps at the chance to write a warm, fuzzy story.

The story we write about a murder, or car wreck or other tragedy probably will get a lot more reads. The story about the new terrible tragedy may even make us famous and for that we have to be grateful, but that doesn’t mean we enjoy it.

On slow days we may jump at the chance to cover a breaking news story about some sort of terrible event, but the reality is not exactly fun. You never forget what a mangled car looks like. You never forget the looks on people’s faces. You never forget the sounds and scents of those moments. Yes, we need to be there and we are happy to do our jobs, but we are not happy in that moment.

We have a duty to provide information to the people. We desperately want individuals to be aware of the events that go on in their communities. And, sadly, death is one of those things that people need to know about.

If you ever happen to be in a newsroom when tragedy strikes, the first reaction of a reporter is all business. We are stoic and calm. We work fast to get the information, provide the details, write the story, get the pictures. But when the moment ends and the information is collected, a solemn silence tends to fall over the office.

Reporters don't love tragedy. We have a healthy respect for it, but we do not enjoy it.

This week I am tired. There have been multiple fatal car wrecks, a tragic drowning and a possible murder.

As a reporter I am prepared for anything and willing to do whatever my job requires. As a human, I am just sad.

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